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Quality of Life Index Settles Back; Jersey Shore Plans Almost Back to Normal

New Jersey

Few say marijuana legalization has impacted state’s quality of life

West Long Branch, NJ – The public’s views of New Jersey’s quality of life have settled back to normal from the pandemic rally effect recorded in last year’s Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll. The poll finds that the number of state residents making plans to visit the Jersey Shore this summer is back to near normal levels, although some families are hesitant about spending a week or more in a beach rental just yet. In other poll results, very few New Jerseyans think the recent legalization of recreational marijuana use has had any impact on the state’s quality of life. At the same time, a little more than half are actually aware it is, in fact, legal now.

Monmouth’s exclusive Garden State Quality of Life Index score now stands at +25. This is down from +37 in April 2020 during the early days of the pandemic, but is similar to the prior reading of +24 in September 2019. The prior high for this index was +31 in April 2012 and the prior low was +13 in February 2019. The current reading is in line with typical scores for this index over the past decade.

The quality of life index score has dropped across most areas in the state except urban ones. Responses from residents of urban communities result in a +20 score, which is similar to the +18 score last year. The current result puts these areas on more of a par with other parts of the state. The index currently stands at +26 in older towns and suburbs (down from +41 in 2020) and an identical +26 in growing suburbs (down from +45). Of note, the current poll marks the first time that urban sentiment is nearly the same as suburban views in Monmouth’s quality of life index trend going back to 2010.

“Perceptions of New Jersey’s quality of life have returned to more normal levels after experiencing a brief rally effect when the pandemic struck last year. However, the fact that ratings in urban communities held steady from that spike is worth watching. It may be a blip, but it could also signal increased optimism among these residents,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The Garden State Quality of Life Index was created by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in 2010 to serve as a resident-based indicator of the quality of life offered by the state of New Jersey. The index is based on five separate poll questions: overall opinion of the state as a place to live – which contributes half the index score – and ratings of one’s hometown, the performance of local schools, the quality of the local environment, and feelings of safety in one’s own neighborhood. The index can potentially range from –100 to +100.

Nearly 6 in 10 New Jerseyans say the state is either an excellent (16%) or good (43%) place to live, while 27% say it is only fair and 14% rate the state as poor. The current positive rating of 59% is down from 68% last year. The all-time high mark for the state rating was 84% positive in February 1987. The record low was 50% recorded in February 2019, but it had improved to 61% by September of that year. Over the past decade, the state rating has generally been in the low- to mid-60s.

May 2021+25+20+29+24+24+27+25+20+17+25+31
April 2020+37+34+41+34+38+40+43+26+29+37+44
September 2019+24+21+26+21+20+32+31+13+18+20+33
February 2019+13+14+12+10+11+18+17+4+2+14+20
April 2018+18+16+20+22+14+20+22+5+8+16+27
July 2017+25+25+24+15+26+30+32+6+8+23+41
July 2015+18+18+18+25+11+20+24+5n/an/an/a
February 2015+23+21+26+26+18+28+29+10+13+30+31
September 2014+18+19+17+12+20+20+23+5+13+15+30
April 2014+25+24+25+31+20+25+27+16+17+24+33
February 2014+23+28+18+23+21+26+27+11+8+23+35
December 2013+24+25+23+24+21+27+29+10+10+24+35
September 2013+26+26+26+27+23+30+33+10+17+25+42
April 2013+21+19+24+19+19+27+29+3+12+19+35
February 2013+29+28+30+30+27+31+36+12+20+30+36
December 2012+30+31+29+30+30+30+36+14+17+33+38
September 2012+24+28+20+16+21+32+30+5+10+23+37
July 2012+27+26+29+21+31+30+32+16+16+31+37
April 2012+31+33+28+25+30+37+36+19+24+28+42
February 2012+25+20+30+25+24+26+29+13+17+23+38
October 2011+24+24+24+23+21+29+31+7+15+25+31
August 2011+22+25+19+27+19+21+26+9+9+22+32
May 2011+23+24+22+23+22+23+26+14+15+22+32
December 2010+21+20+23+23+20+23+26+13+15+21+31
North eastUrban CoreRoute 1 CorridorCentral HillsNorthern ShoreDelaware ValleyGarden CoreUrbanStable TownGrowing Suburb
May 2021+31+23+23+33+26+20+13+20+26+26
April 2020+41+30+40+49+46+33+21+18+41+45
September 2019+20+10+23+42+32+26+17+6+30+30
February 2019+21-1+16+27+21-3+9-1+15+19
April 2018+24+8+18+34+18+14+11+2+23+24
July 2017+25+18+34+33+35+22+13+7+31+29
July 2015+21+4+22+35+22+17+10-2+28+23
February 2015+31+13+24+38+31+11+19+11+30+27
September 2014+23+8+12+42+27+18+4+10+22+19
April 2014+24+10+22+43+29+25+23+4+26+33
February 2014+27+16+20+37+30+14+16+6+28+28
December 2013+31+15+26+40+25+14+17+5+29+30
September 2013+27+8+21+52+33+27+19+1+34+32
April 2013+31+4+19+38+22+21+21-3+30+27
February 2013+31+17+35+37+36+25+23+11+33+36
December 2012+36+18+26+47+40+21+31+9+37+37
September 2012+29+14+17+45+33+26+13-1+27+31
July 2012+37+12+30+37+34+22+18+8+34+34
April 2012+38+26+27+44+34+22+28+20+35+36
February 2012+33+17+27+35+29+19+22+11+31+29
October 2011+31+6+22+45+35+18+23-1+31+34
August 2011+24+16+21+38+27+26+6+4+29+25
May 2011+28+17+16+41+29+22+20+6+29+28
December 2010+26+15+22+38+23+14+17+12+23+27

A key indicator of the state’s quality of life is the health of the Jersey Shore. In what may be the most Jersey-centric metric for whether the state is returning to normal, 58% of residents say they plan to make a trip down the shore this summer. This result is on the low end of the typical range of between 6 in 10 and 7 in 10 New Jerseyans in past polls who said they planned to hit the beach that summer. The current numbers are higher than last year, though. Monmouth’s April 2020 poll found that 58% of the public had been planning a Jersey Shore trip before the pandemic, but only 27% of the public overall said they were likely to go once Covid hit.

The major dip in shore plans this year versus a normal year is due to the lower number who plan to stay at least a week (19%). This number is usually in the low- to mid-20s. Daytrippers and weekenders, though, should be out in nearly full force according to these poll results, representing 39% of the public. However, families with children are among those less likely to be planning a trip to the Jersey shore this year (62%) compared to the same point ten years ago (78%).

 “Jersey Shore crowds may be the most iconic indicator of whether the state is getting back to normal. There may be some vacancies in short-term rentals this summer with fewer families making an extended trip, which makes sense since Covid vaccines aren’t available for most children. However, most New Jersey adults are itching to get back on the beaches and boardwalks,” said Murray.

On an unrelated, yet significant, issue that could have an impact on the quality of life, New Jersey legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purposes this year. Overall, 68% support this, which is similar to 65% who said the same a year ago and 67% of the electorate who voted “yes” on the legalization ballot measure last November. However, only a little more than half (53%) of the state public is aware that recreational marijuana is in fact legal. Another 11% wrongly believe it is not legal and 36% are not sure. The vast majority (86%) of New Jerseyans say this change in marijuana laws has had no impact on the state’s quality of life. Another 4% say legalization has made the quality of life better and 6% say it has made it worse.

“The early days of marijuana legalization have been barely a blip on the radar. We’ll see if that changes once production and retail outlets start opening across the state,” said Murray.

Turning back to other metrics that make up the Garden State Quality of Life Index, the rating that has remained most stable since last year is opinion of one’s own community. More than 3 in 4 New Jerseyans rate their own town or city as an excellent (33%) or good (43%) place to live, with 19% saying it is only fair and 5% rating it as poor. The current 76% positive hometown rating is only slightly lower than the record high of 79% recorded last year.

Environmental ratings are down slightly compared with last year. The current poll registers ratings for local environmental quality at 76% positive – 32% excellent and 44% good. Last year’s 81% result marked a high point for this metric. Another 18% in the current poll rate their local environment as only fair and 6% say it is poor.

The percentage of Garden State residents who currently feel very safe in their own neighborhoods at night stands at 67%, which is down from a high of 74% in 2020. Another 31% say they feel somewhat safe and just 2% do not feel safe at all in their neighborhoods at night.

Opinion of schools has seen the biggest drop among the local quality of life index metrics. Ratings for the job local schools are doing stand at 24% excellent, 40% good, 18% fair, and 8% poor. The combined 64% positive rating is down from last year’s all-time high of 73%. The prior high was 68% in February 2012, but this rating has generally hovered in the low 60s throughout the past decade.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from April 29 to May 4, 2021 with 706 New Jersey adults.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS                                                             

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)        

1.Overall, how would you rate New Jersey as a place to live – excellent, good, only fair, or poor?




Only Fair

(VOL) Don’t

May 202159%16%43%27%14%0%(706)
April 202068%24%44%23%7%1%(704)
September 201961%15%46%26%12%1%(713)
February 201950%11%39%32%17%1%(604)
April 201854%15%39%29%17%1%(703)
July 201759%15%44%28%13%0%(800)
May 201662%16%46%28%10%0%(806)
July 201555%12%43%30%15%0%(503)
May 201563%13%50%27%10%1%(500)
February 201563%15%48%25%11%1%(805)
September  201461%13%48%25%13%1%(802)
June 201462%15%47%26%11%0%(800)
April 201464%15%49%26%10%0%(803)
February 201463%15%48%26%11%0%(803)
December 201365%20%45%26%9%0%(802)
September 201365%19%46%25%10%1%(783)
April 201361%15%46%27%11%0%(806)
February 201368%18%50%24%7%1%(803)
December 201272%20%52%21%5%1%(816)
September 201265%15%50%23%11%0%(805)
July 201269%17%52%23%8%0%(803)
April 201270%20%50%23%7%0%(804)
February 201262%15%47%26%11%1%(803)
October 201167%15%52%24%8%0%(817)
August 201157%14%43%31%11%1%(802)
May 201159%14%45%29%11%0%(807)
December 201063%17%46%26%10%1%(2864)
October 200763%17%46%25%12%1%(1001)
August 200468%22%46%21%10%1%(800)
May 200372%20%52%23%5%0%(1002)
April 200176%23%53%19%4%1%(802)
March 200076%25%51%17%6%0%(800)
May 199976%22%54%19%5%0%(800)
February 199471%18%53%22%7%0%(801)
March 199068%21%47%25%6%1%(800)
February 198878%27%51%17%4%1%(800)
February 198784%31%53%11%4%0%(800)
May 198581%29%52%14%3%1%(500)
October 198480%29%51%15%4%1%(1000)
January 198166%16%50%26%7%1%(1003)
July 198068%18%50%23%7%2%(1005)

[Q2-29 previously released.]

30.Will you visit the Jersey Shore this summer, or not?  [If YES: Will you stay for a week or longer?]

For a week or more19%28%23%27%21%26%23%
For less than a week39%43%42%42%38%34%37%
No, will not visit29%20%27%23%30%29%31%
(VOL) Live down shore8%6%5%6%7%7%5%
(VOL) Don’t know6%4%2%3%4%3%4%

31.How would you rate your town or city as a place to liveexcellent, good, only fair, or poor?




(VOL) Don’t

May 202176%33%43%19%5%0%(706)
April 202079%39%40%16%5%0%(704)
September 201972%32%40%20%7%0%(713)
February 201967%30%37%21%11%0%(604)
April 201871%30%41%20%9%0%(703)
July 201777%37%40%16%7%0%(800)
July 201571%29%42%19%10%0%(503)
February 201572%29%43%21%7%0%(805)
September 201469%24%45%22%10%0%(802)
April 201471%27%44%20%9%0%(803)
February 201470%31%39%23%7%0%(803)
December 201370%29%41%21%8%1%(802)
September 201372%32%40%18%9%1%(783)
April 201367%29%38%25%8%0%(806)
February 201373%30%43%20%7%0%(803)
December 201274%32%42%17%9%0%(816)
September 201272%33%39%19%9%0%(805)
July 201274%32%42%18%7%1%(803)
April 201276%34%42%17%7%0%(804)
February 201274%33%41%21%5%0%(803)
October 201173%26%47%20%8%0%(817)
August 201176%28%48%18%6%0%(802)
May 201173%33%40%20%7%0%(807)
December 201073%27%46%20%8%0%(2864)
May 200374%29%45%19%7%0%(1002)
April 200173%28%45%21%6%0%(802)
May 199570%30%40%21%8%0%(802)
June 199472%31%41%19%9%0%(801)
September 198872%26%46%18%9%1%(500)
October 198471%30%41%21%7%1%(999)
June 198067%23%44%24%9%0%(1005)
May 197766%25%41%24%10%0%(1005)


32.How would you rate the quality of the environment in the area where you live – excellent, good, only fair, or poor?

ExcellentGoodOnly FairPoor(VOL) Don’t
May 202176%32%44%18%6%0%(706)
April 202081%36%45%15%4%0%(704)
September 201972%31%41%22%6%1%(713)
February 201971%27%44%21%8%0%(604)
April 201873%29%44%20%6%1%(703)
July 201776%37%39%14%8%1%(800)
July 201571%27%44%20%9%0%(503)
February 201572%27%45%23%4%0%(805)
September 201472%24%48%21%5%1%(802)
April 201476%27%49%18%6%0%(803)
February 201473%29%44%21%6%0%(803)
December 201369%27%42%24%7%0%(802)
September 201375%30%45%18%7%1%(783)
April 201370%27%43%22%7%0%(806)
February 201371%26%45%24%4%2%(803)
December 201273%25%48%20%7%1%(816)
September 201272%30%42%20%7%0%(805)
July 201274%30%44%19%7%1%(803)
April 201275%30%45%18%6%1%(804)
February 201277%29%48%17%5%0%(803)
October 201172%25%47%19%9%0%(817)
August 201179%31%48%16%5%0%(802)
May 201179%33%46%15%6%0%(807)
December 201066%14%52%25%9%0%(2864)
April 200170%27%43%22%7%1%(402)
September 198853%10%43%31%15%1%(500)

33.How would you rate the job your local schools are doing – excellent, good, only fair, or poor?




(VOL) Don’t
May 202164%24%40%18%8%10%(706)
April 202073%33%40%16%4%7%(704)
September 201960%26%34%23%9%9%(713)
February 201959%19%40%22%10%9%(604)
April 201860%24%36%23%10%7%(703)
July 201765%26%39%20%10%6%(800)
July 201560%27%33%22%9%8%(503)
February 201561%21%40%24%8%7%(805)
September 201460%21%39%24%9%7%(802)
April 201463%24%39%22%9%6%(803)
February 201461%22%39%22%10%7%(803)
December 201360%20%40%23%12%5%(802)
September 201362%24%38%21%7%9%(783)
April 201359%21%38%27%9%5%(806)
February 201364%24%40%20%7%9%(803)
December 201261%21%40%23%7%9%(816)
September 201261%27%34%21%10%8%(805)
July 201261%22%39%20%11%8%(803)
April 201263%23%40%21%7%8%(804)
February 201268%26%42%16%8%8%(803)
October 201160%21%39%20%13%7%(817)
August 201163%19%44%26%6%5%(802)
May 201163%24%39%22%10%6%(807)
December 201064%24%40%23%8%5%(2864)
August 200461%24%37%17%12%9%(800)
April 200164%21%43%21%6%9%(802)
September 199962%18%44%21%9%8%(802)
September 199862%20%42%23%9%7%(804)
February 199660%20%40%20%11%9%(804)
September 199352%16%36%29%14%5%(801)
January 199253%15%38%26%15%5%(800)
October 198760%14%46%23%6%11%(500)
October 198655%15%40%26%10%9%(800)
October 198359%16%43%23%10%8%(802)
May 197852%12%40%25%12%11%(1003)

34.How safe do you feel in your neighborhood at night – very safe, somewhat safe, or not at all safe?

Not at
all safe
(VOL) Don’t

May 202167%31%2%0%(706)
April 202074%22%3%1%(704)
September 201968%27%5%0%(713)
February 201964%29%7%0%(604)
April 201865%29%5%0%(703)
July 201771%22%6%0%(800)
July 201567%27%6%0%(503)
February 201562%33%4%0%(805)
September 201458%36%6%0%(802)
April 201466%30%4%1%(803)
February 201467%28%6%0%(803)
December 201360%33%7%0%(802)
September 201365%27%7%1%(783)
April 201366%28%6%0%(806)
February 201363%30%6%1%(803)
December 201264%29%6%1%(816)
September 201265%25%6%0%(805)
July 201260%32%7%1%(803)
April 201264%31%5%1%(804)
February 201262%32%5%0%(803)
October 201162%31%7%0%(817)
August 201163%31%6%0%(802)
May 201168%27%5%0%(807)
December 201059%35%6%0%(2864)
February 199342%44%13%0%(801)
October 198751%36%11%2%(499)
October 198453%36%9%2%(500)
May 198143%43%13%1%(497)

35.Overall, do you support or oppose legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use?

(VOL) Don’t know3%4%5%5%6%

36.Is it currently legal or not legal in New Jersey for anyone over the age of 21 to use marijuana for recreational purposes, or aren’t you sure?

Not legal11%
Not sure36%

37.It is now legal in New Jersey for anyone over the age of 21 to use and purchase small quantities of marijuana for recreational purposes. Have you seen a change in the state’s quality of life because of this or has there been no real change?  [If CHANGE: Has it changed for the better or worse?]

Change for better4%
Change for worse6%
No real change86%
(VOL) Don’t know4%

* Note: All trend results prior to 2005 come from Rutgers University’s Eagleton Poll.


The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from April 29 to May 4, 2021 with a random sample of 706 New Jersey adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 283 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 423 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2018 one-year survey). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Dynata (RDD sample).  For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

Region in this report is defined by county boundaries:  Northeast (Bergen, Passaic), Urban Core (Essex, Hudson), Route 1 Corridor (Mercer, Middlesex, Union), Central Hills (Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset), Northern Shore (Monmouth, Ocean), Delaware Valley (Burlington, Camden, Gloucester), and Garden Core (Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, Sussex, Warren).

22% Republican
40% Independent
38% Democrat
49% Male
51% Female
29% 18-34
35% 35-54
36% 55+
57% White
13% Black
19% Hispanic
11% Asian/Other
63% No degree
37% 4 year degree

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.